Air Freight and Logistics

Giant Boeing plane lands at wrong airport

Alastair Jamieson, NBC News
File photo: Boeing Co. 747 Dreamlifter cargo aircraft.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A behemoth Boeing air freighter bound for McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., landed Wednesday night at a nearby smaller commercial airport by mistake, and officials scrambled to come up with a plan to get it back in the air.

More than 10 hours after the mixup, an airport official said they had managed to turn around the "Dreamlifter" on the runway and had calculated that it could take off on the shorter runway.

The 747 aircraft, one of the largest cargo planes in the world, touched down safely at Jabara Airport at 9:38 p.m. CT Wednesday, officials there said — eight miles from its intended destination.

A recording of a radio conversation with air traffic controllers appears to show that crew members were still unsure of their location even after landing at Jabara, which has no control tower and doesn't normally handle cargo traffic. Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is the main commercial airport in the region.

In the recording, one of the pilots can be heard mistakenly telling the control tower at McConnell that they landed at nearby Beech Factory Airport, then asking for details of other airports in the area.

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"Let me ask you this, how many airports...are there?" one of the crew members is heard asking.

Officials were initially worried that the plane—which weighs 400,000 pounds even when empty—would be grounded because Jabara's 6,100-foot runway is about half the length of the runways at McConnell.

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But by morning they had determined there was enough room for a takeoff and scheduled a noon departure (1 p.m., EST). CNBC will stream the takeoff here. The plane, modified from the Boeing 747 to carry Boeing air parts, is one of only four of its kind.

By Alastair Jamieson, NBC News.